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September 28, 2011

Q&A: Tom O'Brien's Wednesday teleconference

NC State coach Tom O'Brien held his weekly teleconference Wednesday, discussing whether the Wolfpack could switch to a 3-4 defense, the maturation of sophomore cornerback David Amerson and the problems Georgia Tech will present on Saturday.

Below is a transcript of O'Brien's teleconference:

Opening statement:

"We are busy getting ready, trying to slow down Georgia Tech's offense. They are the most explosive offense in the country. They are doing a great job throwing the ball this year. Washington has added that dimension to their offense, so we look forward to their visit here on Saturday and getting ready to play."

Given your injury situation on the offensive line, especially inside, have you given any thought to going to a 3-4 and is that something that may be something better you might consider?

"We really have not talked that way just yet. Only because, you know, the middle of October before we start the second half of the season, we feel we are going to get some guys back so. I don't know if we have enough linebackers to line up in that type of a scheme. So we are going to stay where we are and just hope that if we can get some guys back healthy and then playing."

Wanted to ask you about David Amerson, among the leaders in interceptions, what's the difference between this year and last year when he was a true freshman?

"He's playing with much more confidence. He understands the defense. When you're coming in as a freshman, you're more worried about everything else. You have to go to class; it's a whole different environment than what you're used to in high school. I think he feels more comfortable in his every day routine, which then allows him to understand the defense more. Certainly getting the Bowl practice and spring practice, which are instructional times, a lot of fundamental work, helps him coming in. He was much better able right now to show a lot of his talents. We think he's really a good football player and he's making some plays for us."

Has he switched side of the field this year?

"Yeah, we put him into the boundary last year as a true freshman and now we are playing him to the wide side of the field where more things happen."

In your scheme, how are those two positions different? How has he adjusted?

"Last year he played a lot of rolled-up corner and had a lot of flat coverage responsibilities and did not have a lot of deep responsibilities. Now he's responsible for — he's not rolled up as much into the flat, when you play to the field, you back off either in deep zone or deep man situations."

I suspect the Russell Wilson saga has been dissected pretty good back there but on a general level, do you feel any thoughts on the rule whereby a player can essentially become a free agent without sitting out a year?

"It's probably a good rule. I think for situations that guys find themselves in, especially if there's changing coaching staffs, there's probably a lot of reasons, if you sat down and thought of them, that guys might have an opportunity to play. If they decide to go play again somewhere else, you know, I don't have a problem with it at all. We were really happy for Russell and wishing the best."

Last week playing against Cincinnati, did that think you may be would have been better off with Wilson as a senior quarterback this year?

"No, I haven't had that thought once all year."

Why, because it's September, and it's going to be a lot different come October and November?

"No, because the decision was made and we're moving forward and that's where we're going."

What do you want to do better this week or maybe do better than some of the defenses that have played Georgia Tech this year?

"Well, you have to try to contain them. That's what nobody has been able to do. I think the thing that's really unique this year for them is their passing attack. You know, they throw him the ball much earlier in run-down situations. They are much more effective. I think they are averaging 30 yards a catch or 30 yards a throw. The one receiver, No. 5, he's averaging I think 40 yards a catch. I think that's the difference in their offense this year than in years past."

Question about Georgia Tech's defense, curious what you've seen from them schematically so far this year and if you expect kind of different stuff you haven't seen yet.

"Certainly, [defensive coordinator] Coach [Al] Groh is a 3-4 guy. That's what they have been playing and that's what we saw last year from them and that's how they have been lined up this year. We certainly expect different wrinkles, because they do it every game. Every game that you break down, there's something different that he puts in that package for what he perceives our offense to be or what he perceives Kansas or North Carolina or whatever they have played each and every week. No, we expect something different."

People talk about how you grow and become more diversified as the season goes on. Is that how it works?

"I think you do what your personnel allows you to do. So if you feel comfortable as a coach that they can handle more, yeah, you certainly do that. Or, if you need to add more to defend, the offense you're going against, you do, but you know, you can't give them too much because you don't want them thinking. You want them playing. You want them playing fast. If you're not doing that, you have too much in the game plan."

One of the things that makes Georgia Tech's offense go is their offensive line and I just wondered how that unit looks to you on tape?

"Well, coming off the ball, most of the guys, we've seen them play last year and they have a little more experience since last year. They are playing a little bit banged up. But you are talking about four redshirt sophomores and four redshirt freshmen. They have been in the system and they understand the system, and they are much more efficient this time around than they were a year ago when we played them."

In particular, they have got a guard, Omoregie Uzzi, ACC conference offensive linemen of the week two weeks in a row now; does he do anything that stands out?

"I'm glad you said his name and not me. He's No. 77 to me."

I had to practice a lot.

"He's certainly their best lineman without question. We saw some of him last year. He comes off the ball, he's low, he gets into his blocks and he stays on his blocks and he knocks people down. He's an impressive guy."

You said several true freshmen have to step into the lineup. How have they responded as a group? Are they ahead of where you might expect them to be?

"First of all, we didn't expect them to play, and No. 2, they are learning. They are working hard and have a lot on their plate right now and they are getting to the point where after three games, you know they are not going to be freshmen anymore. They have to be part of the offense or defense and step up and give us some help."

Who has really been the most impressive to you out of that group?
"I think the three kickers. The three kids that came in because of the — what's been put on their plate, to have to perform, our punter, our long snapper and our kicker. I think those three kids have been a little bit better than expected for what they have done for us so far."


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